Monday, June 11, 2007

an epiphany expressed in science-speak and religionese

I believe that God exists, however, I do not believe in the church. I guess that you could say that I am a deist with Christian penchants (I just thought of that particular summary of my beliefs today). Anyway, I am going to make an attempt to explain my beliefs here in this blog. However, I am not sure that I am going to be able to keep the same tone. I am going to switch from “science-speak” to “religionese”, depending on the viewpoint or argument that I am trying to get across, sometimes in both. I will clarify which tone I am going to use before each paragraph so that any reader(s) who either do not understand or get extremely annoyed by one or the other may have the option of skipping those paragraphs without having to sift through it. Anyway, I start my monumental task:

(science-speak) The most recent epiphany that I have had started with a discussion that I was having with one of my former teachers. (He is a history teacher that dabbles in theoretical physics. I am a recently graduated high school student who reads informal stuff on the same topic. Together we have some fascinating speculations and we both entertain the illusion that we know what we are talking about. It is great fun.) Anyway, we were talking about quantum entanglement, and the possibility that two entangled particles are actually two different manifestations of the same multidimensional object, the vast majority of which lies in dimensions that are difficult for us to observe. I was having a real difficult time using the word manifestation, and, in trying to explain why, I realized that I had been misusing the word for most of my life. You see, I was having a very difficult time accepting that an entire object, possibly millions of light-years large, could be entirely embodied in two images of a photon. You see, I thought that manifestation and incarnation were synonyms. However, I now understand that a manifestation is something that you can see, but is only a small part of the whole, only the little bit that is plainly evident in the world that we regularly observe, whereas incarnation is an entire idea or being (like god) being completely embodied in one form. So these two photons being a manifestation of a multiple light-year large object is an appropriate image, but not an incarnation. This new realization of these definitions had some serious implications for my religious views.

(religionese) Even the most fundamental Christian will agree that Jesus was more than a man. In fact, they would probably argue with anyone who said anything to the contrary. What, then, can we say that Jesus is? The stock answer is “the son of God”. Well, define your terms. Who is God? What does it mean to be His son? How is that different than all of us being children of God? I have never actually had the guts to ask these questions to anybody, (and would greatly appreciate any comments that attempt answer(s)). I personally cannot come close to answering any of them. In fact, I have never really been able to understand any part of the trinity except the Holy Spirit. If it were not for that third of God, I would probably be an atheist. God incarnate (aka Jesus) does not make any sense, nor does this ephemeral word ‘God’ that is somehow separate from the Holy Spirit that is all around us.

Anyway, although my recent realization of the definition of “manifestation” (a smaller, more plainly evident part of something bigger) as opposed to “incarnation” (a complete embodiment) has helped me, it has not answered most of the questions above. It has, however, lead me to understand one of the possible roles of Jesus. He was not meant to take the place of the Holy Spirit, only to be a more tangible form of it. Although his body is long gone in the ascension, his teachings still remain. That remnant of His mind, of His connection with the Father, helps us to gain a more solid hold on the invisible Holy Spirit. He is a manifestation, a small, tangible part of something bigger.

I still have no idea who God the Father is. I also realize that my definition of Jesus might be considered heretical, and am open to any other definitions if people are willing to post them.

Let me leave you with another heretical thought, expressed in religionese. Rom 1:20 “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” If people who have never heard the words of the Bible are still responsible for their content, then it must be possible to derive the essential bits from the observable parts of nature. Although it is always better to have a teacher, it is possible to figure stuff out on your own. This figuring stuff out from nature is exactly what scientists try to do, but they are trying to do so from the observable universe alone. That verse implies that it is possible for them to succeed.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Ivy Schools

I have yet to see a show or movie about what life is like in an Ivy League school. There are plenty about what it takes to get in there. The underprivileged inner-city student that manages to overcome the odds and get into Harvard. The uniformed boarding school kid learning some incredibly valuable life lesson, writing an essay about it, deemed worthy of admittance into the elite. But I have yet to come across anything, anything at all that talks about life once you get in.

What is it like to go from the top of your class to the bottom, or middle? What is it like to have people who would otherwise never look at you twice randomly offer you a job? What is it like to have people tell stories about you? To be one of the connections that people brag about? I am used to being invisible; this is so disorienting.

I wish that I could be like Will Hunting before he was “discovered”. Just live life. Study at a library. Be yourself without any responsibilities to anyone else. Once you reveal what you are capable of, people start expecting it of you. Then again, if nobody expects it of you, you have fewer opportunities to explore with it. Well, I certainly will not have any problems with that.

I think that maybe people do not like to listen to something that they do not understand. A lot of times, they do not even like having it around. Why do people get so emotional when someone is speaking in a language that they do not understand? Is it really national pride, or is it because they like to know what is going on all the time? Is it bad to want to know what is going on all the time? That is considered one of the nobler pursuits of science and history and journalism and philosophy… maybe it is only bad if it involves stamping out what you do not know instead of trying to understand it. Nobody has tried to stamp out institutions like Harvard, except the communists.

I guess that my dilemma is simply that I do not know what I have gotten myself into. I have no idea what the next your years of my life will be. I am not sure that I am going to be prepared for change that is beyond my control, beyond my understanding, to have consequences that I cannot predict. Can I predict them? Well, I will certainly do my best.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Trepidations about the Future

Alright, I know that I have not posted in a while and the single person who knows that this blog exists has probably lost interest a long time ago. However, I am not one to be easily discouraged, and am posting again anyway.

I got into a very nice University. It is not Yale, I got rejected, but I probably would have chosen this college over Yale anyway. (It is a much better fit for my personality) I do not particularly want to tell the entire internet what university this happens to be, because that information compounded with some of the other info that I let slip in this blog might make my true identity too searchable for comfort. (Not that you might not be able to guess what it is) No, you reader(s) only get to know my true identity when I come streaming out of the telephone booth to save the world. Anyway, I will say that it is a very selective technical college. I will call it TIEC for Technical Institute of the East Coast. I thought this acronym would have a bit more decorum than ECT, not that I have ever been especially concerned with decorum.

Anyway, TIEC recently invited all of its admitted students to a class-wide campus visit, with lots of events planned and lots of free food. I went. And it was great. I could be as open as I felt about my academics, and people just accepted it as a matter of course. There was no double take, no long blink, no awkward silence whenever I revealed something particularly geeky. I was just a slight variation on everyone else there. Emphasis on the word slight. I am used to being strange beyond measure. I would not be surprised if I actually had some sort of mental illness, but I have never been to a psychologist. I am kind of used to the looks people give me when they realize that I am smart, used to having people refuse to argue with me or compete with me in any kind of game. But there… I was normal, at least in my degree of intelligence.

I am not going to lie, there were some less exciting aspects of realizing that I was normal. For one thing, I will probably not be at the top of my class. I am not sure; I am only judging from a single weekend. (I know how arrogant this is, but it is still hard to believe that it is possible that I will not be at the top.) I give myself a 10% chance of being in the top ten percent. This is much less likely than the chances that I am used to, even with my probable overestimation (never forget my own arrogance).

Then again, I am fairly sure that I will be better at a lot of things physically. One of the events there was sword fighting like they do in video games, but in real life. (I told you these place is amazing) Anyway, I won. By a lot. We were not really keeping score, and I can still tell you that I won. There was another booth for a martial arts club, and they had some people ready to teach some kicks as a demonstration in order to convince people to join. (Note how they taught it instead of showed it. Again, this place is AMAZING!) Anyway, they did the eyebrow thing that people do when they are impressed and asked me to sign up. (they would have asked anyway, that was the point of the demonstration- to convince people to sign up) I did. I was planning on learning some martial arts in college anyway. Later, I went to a salsa party at one of the frat houses, where they taught salsa to all the people there. Again, I did well. (Oh and that frat party was amazing. There was actually some mention of physics. Where else is there a discussion of physics at a frat party? Again I say, this place is AmAzInG!) Anyway, it is comforting that, even if I will not be the top of my class academically, I will be near the top physically.

One thing that really scares me though, is that everyone there is really, really smart, or else they would not be able to get in, and this particular university is not known for its strict adherence to rules and regulations. This is exciting in more than one way. First let me clarify that TIEC does make an effort to track down violations that harm people or property, just not the silly little pranks and jokes, so it is not as if there is a lot of serious stuff going on here. It is however, endlessly amusing because those pranks can be really funny. For this reason, I want to join this community of hackers. No worries, I will only be doing fun stuff, jokes. Nothing harmful. Anyway, it also means that my level of security is going to go up, a lot further than it is now, just because people do not worship rules there. (Of course, that my security is going up is not saying much. Right now, I only lock my car if I am in a city, and only sometimes then.)

Yet another things that impressed me from that weekend was the incredible amount of diversity. Alright, I know that I am coming from the Midwest, a place not exactly known for its diversity, but I was incredibly impressed with the amount of cultures at TIEC. I thought that I was reaching out because I have friends who are not in the same denomination as me, a couple who aren’t even Christian. *gasp* But at TIEC, the fact that I was a Christian was actually something to be noted as strange. People were going by the Campus Christians as if they had a strange religion. There were Atheists, Jews, Muslums, Hindus… Don’t get me wrong, I have known people who are not Christian, I am not completely isolated, but I have never felt like I was in the minority before. I am not even sure that I was, it might have just felt like it because it was a lot less than the 90% majority that I am used to. Maybe it was just because I am used to people knowing that I am a Christian… ( I have a reputation at school)

That brings up another thing. At this completely new place, I will be able to shape a reputation relatively unaffected by my reputation at home. If I want to be the athletic hacker, I can, and very few people will be comparing that with the image I have here of a near perfect angel. Except that I am not sure that I want that image. I might have left my church, but I left on moral grounds, not the lack thereof, so I am certainly not going to go out reckless. What kind of a person do I want to project myself as? I am going to have to make that decision before I get on campus, because first impressions are hard to change. Well, that is the question for a different blog. I have homework to get done.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Women of Faith Conference

Here is a scene from my life:

My mother had plans to go to a Women of Faith convention in Chicago with four friends from her hometown about a year ago. One of the people who was supposed to go had to cancel at the last minute due to a family emergency, so I went in her stead. Believe me, that is the only way I would ever have allowed that kind of money to be spent on me. Anyway, this a glimpse of the world I saw there.

(FYI, I grew up in a very conservative church. I do not know how conservative the rest of the women at the conference were, but I am just relating my experiences)

First of all, the actual convention should not have been named Women of Faith. A better name would have been “Suburban Housewives of America.” The stuff that they talked about was raising kids, dealing with a working husband, looking good, and taking care of a house. I think that it was unfair to claim that they were representing all women, or that those things are what faith is about. I was expecting philosophy and theology the deals with a woman’s place in the world. I was expecting feminism, but that is not what I got. Instead, it was celebrating the traditional role of women. I guess that there is nothing wrong with that. If women choose that lifestyle, if they like it and it brings them joy, who am I to tell them differently? However, I did not really relate becuase I am neither currently a housewife, nor do I intend to be.

The actual presentations bothered me because of the excessive use of rhetoric. The presentations were filled with subtle flattery. It was like seeing a motivational speaker. There were pity pleas to make people feel better about what they were not going through. There were cries for charity to make people feel better about their morality. There were testimonies from people who have come to realize that the Women of Faith were right after all. There were stories that housewives would be able to relate to, celebrating suberban women as opposed to suberban men or suburban children, forgetting that there is life outside of suburbia. Unless, of course, the glimpse of the outside worlds was a pity plea, telling people of the obsticals they overcame to become like the people at the convention.

There were advertisements throughout the entire thing, selling things using moral convictions: books that will make you a better person, bible carrying cases, christian music CD’s, christian tee-shirts and clothing. I knew that the tickets themselves were expensive, but this just seemed like profiteering, especially considering the type of advertizing that they were using.

Another thing that I hated was the ways in which they tried to make the conference interactive. Everything we did, raising our hands in prayer, singing, standing, it was all done in order to make people feel a part of the group. It had little to no purpose to illustrate a point. It was just rhetoric. The phony group activities, the profiteering, the flattery… I was put on edge by the lack of logic throughout the entire thing.


Another part of my experience was my interactions with the people I went with. I would not go so far as to say that they were my mother’s friends because the main reason she was going was to be with her childhood best friend, Viki, who organized our party’s trip. (Viki and the two other people whom she invited were all housewives. I would not be surprised if my mom was the only one at the whole convention who worked.) Anyway, getting to the point.: Viki’s two friends, whom I will call Karen and her daughter Sarah, were extreamly offensive.

Sarah was recently married to a patent lawyer and was very rich. I get the impression that she grew up rich too, but do not know for sure. Anyway, her firstborn baby son was at home with a runny nose, and she could think of nothing else. Dinner, lunch, drive-time, any time she opened her mouth, she was talking about the most recent wonder about Jason, her worry about his nose, or the quality of babysitters. Everything in her life revolved around this kid. Alright, I have to admire a devotion to one’s work, but that was going a bit overboard. Personally, I think that she was obsessing about every tiny thing because she is a very smart woman who needed something to put her mind to. She thought that her only option was being a housewife, so she was going to be the best housewife that she could be. That means perfectionism, and she was just that.

Although Sarah was acting like the stereotypical trophy-wife, that was not offended me. It was one particular conversation during lunch. They were talking about the quality of urologists, and Karen said that she hated all female urologists because they thought so much of themselves. She said this with the full knowledge that Mom, another female doctor, was listening. Her logic was that if the woman could get through med school and residency, she looked down on all the women who did not. Although she limited her sweeping generalization to urology, not pediatrics, my mom’s specialty, I still think that it was meant to offend. She mentioned nothing to exclude pediatrics from her generalization, so it would not take much to apply her logic to that specialty as well.

Mom refused to be offended. She made excuse after excuse on Karen’s behalf, but I am still not convinced. I think that Karen grew up with the knowledge that women are housewives, and the idea that they could be anything else is offensive to her, so she dislikes any example to the contrary. Maybe it is because she would have like to be something else, but accepted the limitations placed on her, and wants to place those limitations of everyone else to even the playing field. Maybe it is because she likes to be on top of the world, and does not like the idea that anyone could do anything that she could not. Maybe she is just reacting to the feminist movement telling her that her way of life was degrading. I do not know, but she still insulted my mother, and I am still offended, even though this incident took place a year ago.

So, I suppose that this conference did not make a good impression on me. It was a group of people with whom I could not identify, a style of speaking that did not speak to me, and ideas that offended me. I will stick to acadamia and leave the Suberban Housewives of America to their own ends.

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On the day that I realized that I was a feminist, I had opened a church door for a man. I thought that I was just being polite, but he had no idea how to react. He could not, of course, walk through the door opened by a woman. Instead he stood there, looking at me, horrified. He looked at the handle, his hands itching to take it so that he would be in his rightful position, holding the door as I walked through it, but the handle was too firmly in my grasp. He looked at me, at the door, and back at me, pleading with me to solve this horrible paradox. I could not expect him to commit the sin of walking through a door held by a woman. I had effectively blocked the door by trying to open it for him. I put him out of his misery and walked through it.

This was the first time that I experienced open sexism. I cannot hold it against this man that he was religiously polite and respectful to women. However, it made me realize that my fundamentalist church is different from school. At school, I get kind of annoyed by feminists, trying to eradicate the discrimination that is not there, finding bias in the entomology of words and then refusing to use them, guilting everyone with a Y chromosome because of the sins of history and far-off countries. I never realized that sexism could actually affect me.

I started paying more attention. I had never realized that my mother, the first female doctor in my denomination, had faced anything but friendliness. I started hearing conversations and implications that she had stepped out of her place. They were rare, granted, but they were there, most of the time coming out of the mouths of other women. I actually listened during the mother's day sermon, and the minister's extravagant praise of the housewife. It reminded me of the praise given to a three-year-old's finger painting. I listened at the weddings, where they made the wife's vows include submission to her husband. I hated it. So many people at my church honestly believe that the "fairer sex" is the weaker sex.

I set out to prove them wrong. I did not have heated debates; I just provided myself as a counterexample to their over-generalized rules. I went to school and got A's. I succeeded in math and science. I argued philosophy and religion, refusing to sit back and watch. I played sports, and I scored goals. I smashed my own bugs. I searched for thrills. Nobody will call me weak. I have done everything I can to force people to put away their prejudices.

Although feminists annoy me, I am one. I am not going to "follow my destiny" as a housewife. I am not going to be defined by my breasts. Instead, I will break every stereotype that I can, and I will be free to do anything.

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Writing a Book

I think that I should write a book about the stuff that I have learned in life. In thinking about this, I have decided some attributes that my book will have.
First of all, there will be only one. At least, I will only plan one at a time. It frustrates me to no end when an author, who was originally very good, just keeps writing, even though they have nothing more to say. They churn out book after book, each one of which would be good by itself, but, if someone reads all of them, they realize that they could have just read the same book seven times. Now, don’t get me wrong, even I can re-read the same book several times, but only if it is very good. However, I think that the real masterpieces are the ones that have the ability to be spread out over an epic series, but have been condensed into a single book, or maybe a trilogy. In following with this effort of not wasting my reader’s time, I plan to produce a single book.
Secondly, the book will be fiction. I have toyed with the idea of writing a non-fiction book, an autobiography, but I think that this effort would be too difficult. My life is far from simple, and I think that I would have to do too much explaining of circumstances and not enough getting to the point in order to adequately stick to the truth. Therefore, I will not stick to the truth. The main character will not be me, and her experiences will not be my own. However, there will be definite parallels.
Finally, and this will be the hard part, I am going to have to make it subtle. I cannot beat people against the head with some of my themes because that would neither convince them nor would it cause good reactions. Zut.
Anyway, now I have to figure out what themes I am going to put in this book. I have a couple ideas already, but do not know how to translate them into a coherent fictional storyline. I guess that this blog will be my brainstorm for this theoretical book.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Real Game Starts

I think that one of the things about growing up is realizing that there is a world beyond my own.

When I was small, everything that I did was for the here and now. If I played for a prize, it was some candy that I was going to get in a couple of minutes. Otherwise, it was for the fun of playing... and everything was a game. I do not just mean the tag and Nintendo, but the schoolwork and lessons. Even in high school, I did not take classes that I did not like. Alright, I did strategize in order to make the best college application that I could, but I only did that because it was like a really big game. It was either strategize for that or take them randomly. I have always been a fan of order, so I planned, not because I was particularly ambitious, but because it was fun.

Then that fun changed. At the end of my junior year, I started applying to college, and figuring out where I could apply with realistic chances and… well… life turned serious. My game of high school turned out to have real consequences. I was looking at test scores on’s college profiles, trying to find a reach school, and well, I could not. Even at Yale, my scores were at the upper end of their range. Suddenly, my game turned out to be real.

This completely rocked my boat. I had brushed off the private school as something that I could do, therefore it was no big deal. Then I realize that I can do the Ivy Leagues too. If nothing else, their fame forced me to see that I was not playing a game. I always thought that my friends were joking when they said that they wanted to go to Harvard or Stanford. Then I find out that they actually have a chance, a realistic expectation to go there. My world is turned upside down! Things that I thought were just fanciful dreams, hopeless ambitions, they are real.

When I was small, I found out the Santa Clause was my mother, Camelot never existed, and light-speed travel has yet to be invented. I also made the conclusion that New York City did not exist. It followed the trend. When people think nobility, they think Camelot, but there are no historical artifacts from that mystical city. When people think of the new world and technology, they think space travel, but the moon is the furthest a human has gone. Whenever someone thought of a city, they thought “New York”, but I did not personally know anyone who had been there. When I found out that it did, in fact, exist, I pushed it to the back of my mind as “well, nobody goes there”.

Then came that fateful junior year.

BOOM! (that was my world exploding.) Suddenly, I find out that the coasts are real possibilities. Many of my friends fully intend to leave and never come back. This is even more of a shock, to find out that I was expected to continue the Midwest brain-drain. First I find out the rest of the world exists, then I find out that I am supposed to go there? Somewhere people do not know how to play Euchre? Where the ocean is a weekend destination? Where crime is rampant and people are rude? Where it is possible to survive without a driver’s license? Where you have to pay for everything, but can buy anything? I am not sure that I will be able to survive in such a foreign world.

However, I am now nearing the end of my senior year, and am getting used to the prospect of the rest of the world, even enamored. If I were able to get into Yale, actually attend there, what else might I be able to do? Now, I listen to the radio on the way to school, not thinking about those silly people on the coast, but thinking, “that could be me.” I look at an atlas, and see all the roads and cities and population and think that there are actually people living there. It is not just a political force or a vacation destination, but a home and way of life. I have always known these facts, but have only recently come to realize their implications. I know that this is my youth speaking, but I feel like I can go out and do anything. The rest of the world is just as real the climbing tree in my yard.

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Student of Integrity Essays

Recently, I just wrote an essay for the “Student of Integrity” award. That was probably the most difficult essay that I have ever had to write, even though it was only 300 words. How, exactly, do they expect me to sum up my entire philosophy of life in a single page? Not only that, but like any other college essay, I had the responsibility to make it look like I was perfect. That was hard with the academic ones, but trying to do that when I am supposed to be demonstrating my integrity???? Impossible. Anyway, I thought and thought, and by the time the due date was near, and the office wanted to get it sent out, I just wrote what I thought. I knew this essay was going to get me in trouble, but I did it any way.

I do not think that I deserve a Student of Integrity award. The people at school who nominated me for this think that I am more virtuous than I am because I do my best to be polite. I follow rules. I do not do either of the above because I have a particular affinity for rules or politesse, I just do not have the energy to fight it.
I grew up with a mentally handicapped brother who had violent tendencies and absolutely no idea how to control them. If he wanted something, then he would go for it with all of his might. If I wanted the opposite, then I would have to fight with all of mine. This means that I had to learn very early on how to prioritize what I fight for. I am not going to risk bruising in order to watch Arthur as opposed to Star Trek, but I might be willing to fight for an episode of Sabrina for which I have been waiting an entire week. I was bombarded with these priority conflicts for my entire childhood.
From these experiences, I have learned how to distribute my effort. My school has a particularly strict dress code that I do not particularly care about. However, many teachers notice that I follow it fairly well. It is not because I have any underlying belief in the sanctity of rules. I just do not particularly care, so I am not going to cause conflict over something as silly as tucking in a shirt.
I am not a virtuous person. I do not care about rules. I do not go through the conflict of breaking them, but I do not go out of my way to make sure that they are never broken.

That essay was completely true. However, the college counselor still did not like it, understandably. It went against everything that he has been trained to do for his entire career, gloss things over, make students look perfect. Here I was, butchering my image for a scholarship. He was having a hard time controlling his temper.
Anyway, I rewrote the essay, trying to make myself look a little better and appease the counselor:

What is this essay? Am I supposed to tell the committee how virtuous I am? How I am better than all of the other applicants? I cannot do that. I just do my best to follow what I believe. That trait sometimes this gets me into trouble.
The most prominent time this has happened was when I asked for my membership to the ACC to be removed. I did this for a number of reasons. Mainly, it was because I did not like pretending to believe one thing while doing another. I did not like pretending to wear a head covering and a skirt all the time, even though I only wore them on Sunday, even though this is the inconsistent practice of the vast majority of female ACC members. I did not like nodding my head, pretending to agree with all ultra-conservative positions. I did not like pretending that I did not play sports. I did not like pretending that I intended to become a housewife. So I stopped pretending, and asked for my membership to be removed.
There are a lot of people who disagree with my action. They tell me that many members play sports and vote democratically and wear jewelry. One should not talk about those things in church, but those liberal views do not warrant leaving. I should go with the flow and not cause discord. But I was tired of hiding who I was, smiling and nodding and grinding my teeth. So, I did the only thing that I could think of. I gave up my membership. I broke my uninformed, sixth-grade oath, but I was true to myself and to my beliefs. I do not know if that was ethical or not, but what I did was my best guess at morality.

It was still not good. Too controversial. That was what the High School Director said. So I rewrote it again. He told me that I was thinking too much in terms of obeying rules. He said that in his experience directing the Honor Committee, of which I am a member, he has noticed that I do, in fact, try to do the right thing. I should write my essay about that. I went to the art room computers and typed up this silly thing.

A lot of people think that having integrity means following rules and doing what you are told. Rules have their place, but they are not the things that make a person moral. Instead, it is the type of decisions that someone makes when there are no rules to follow.
Sometimes, that means looking beyond an immediate situation to the purpose of it. If someone asks a question on a moral dilemma the purpose is not providing a confidant response, but a solution the questioner is willing to follow. If she is asking about homework, the purpose is not to provide the answer, but to provide understanding. Understanding the purpose of a situation effects the attitude with which you approach it.
Another important attribute is the willingness to sacrifice time, effort, and money for the greater good. I could be selfish with my study time so that I can get the best scores possible. However, I often prefer to help friends who are struggling in that class. That is a small price to pay for their success, the ensuing relationship, and the success of the class as a whole.
Self-sacrifice and patience are nothing if it is done in the wrong spirit. I do not do things because I want to be better than other people. I do them because I want the people around me to succeed. I want them to help me when I fall short of an ideal. I sin. I fail. However, because I do not look down on my fellow sinners and failures, those faults are kept to a minimum.

I know that it is not well organized, but I just wrote it out because I was too emotionally strained. It is hard when the office thinks that I am trying to sabotage myself, trying to annoy them, trying to make them mad. All on a paper over integrity. Frustration!
Anyway, they accepted it, and sent it in. I do not know if it will actually win anything, but I can hope. I do not know if they accepted it just because they were tired of fighting, or if it actually has some sort of quality about it. I did not stick to any sort of thesis statement. Oh well. I will just hope for the money and be glad that I do not have to fight with the office any more.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Relations with the Church

When I lost my temper for the second time in my life, I was dealing with my very strict, very unique church. It all started with a moral dilemma I was experiencing. My brother had just lost his membership in the church because he had joined the army, something that our pacifism forbade. I was having a hard time supporting the Church’s judgement because I love my brother, and because the logic behind the tenant was not clear. It is based of the commandment “thou shalt not kill.” War implies killing. Therefore war is against the Ten Commandments. However, King David, one of the most revered Biblical figures, went to war many times, and is not considered a sinner because of that. Something seemed inconsistent.

These were my honest thoughts, but I did not want to rebel from the Church. It was possible that I was wrong. I wrote an e-mail to the Elder, Phil, asking him to present a counter-argument so that my faith in the church would remain intact. That never happened. The response I received completely ignored my question, and instead included veiled hints that I was starting down a path of sin. Phil told me that it was possible to question any aspect of the church, but that they were still “basic Biblical truths of scripture.” As examples, he listed tenants of this unique church that have the least Biblical support: literally kneeling in prayer, never wearing any jewelry, and never dating.

That response got me hopping mad. I could barely think straight. Not only did he ignore my question, not only did he generically accuse me of sin without a real basis, he was saying completely untrue things as if they were straight from the mouth of God. My church’s custom of marriage without a dating period has almost no biblical support! I paced. I screamed. Finally, I wrote a furious e-mail, pointing out his blatantly wrong logic and ranting on, using as many biting Biblical references as I could, using no self-restraint to avoid offence. Later, I had to apologize for my disrespect to the highest position in the church, but I do not regret my outburst.

Since then, I have never been able to trust the pulpit as I once did. I do not hate it. I simply do not trust it. I know that the church is not God. For four years, I silently disobeyed any rules which I did not believe until, early in my senior year, I finally made the decision to withdraw my membership. After a summer of participation in social events meant to replace the dating system, after four years of listening to the sermons in church, refusing to let my blood boil, I revealed my beliefs to my parents. Now I know that, even under incompetent, uncompromising authority that nobody has the courage to challenge openly, my decisions and my beliefs are my own, and I will not be frightened into changing them.

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My Intentions

Recently, I have tried to make it known to the world who I am. Well, that and figure out who I am in the first place. Well, this is one attempt. I am going to try and explain to all of you compleate strangers who I am. Hopefully, I will keep up on my posting. Anyway, this way, I can say what I think without fear of retaliation. I can reveal parts of my life without fearing what people will think, or how it will change their opinion of me. These are my hopes. I am going to start with my college application essays so that I will have some sort of semblance of length to this thing.